TAMPA, Fla. – A strong defensive third period helped the Toronto Maple Leafs get a rare win.
Niklas Hagman had two goals, and Matt Stajan scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period to lead the Maple Leafs past the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 on Wednesday night. Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 28 saves, including six in a scoreless third.
“The whole third period, I think, that was the best play we’ve shown so far this season when we’ve had the lead,” Gustavsson said. “We took total control of the game.”
Nikolai Kulemin also scored to help the Maple Leafs improve to 5-11-7. Rookie defenceman Carl Gunnarsson had three assists in his sixth career NHL game.
“It feels like we’re getting our legs under us a little bit better,” Hagman said. “We’re creating more chances.”
Tampa Bay got goals from Andrej Meszaros, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. The Lightning, 5-1-4 at home, were the last Eastern Conference team without a home loss in regulation.
“Coming back from the road trip I knew it was going to be a grind for us,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “I think a couple guys looked tired, but we hung in there. We weren’t mentally sharp.”
Tampa Bay returned home after a 2-1-1 road trip.
Stajan gave Toronto a 4-3 lead with a second-period breakaway goal with 1:47 remaining. Gunnarsson set up the goal with a long pass.
“I didn’t really see him,” Gunnarsson said. “I just tried to get the puck out of our zone because there was like two or three guys on my side. Kind of lucky.”
The Maple Leafs took a 3-2 advantage 1:20 into the second on Hagman’s second goal of the game. Malone got the Lightning even at 3-3 on his 15th goal this season at 7:51.
After falling behind 2-0 early on, Tampa Bay tied it 2-2 on goals by Meszaros and Lecavalier coming 30 seconds apart late in the first. Meszaros scored from the right circle at 14:14 on a power play before Lecavalier’s rebound goal with 5:16 to go in the period.
Kulemin put Toronto ahead 1-0 at 6:45 of the first. It was just the fourth time this season the Maple Leafs scored the game’s first goal.
Hagman made it 2-0 with 8:06 left in the first.
Gustavsson came up big 36 seconds into the game by stopping a shot by Martin St. Louis, who had skated into the slot all alone.
“We got some good bounces and we finished the way we should,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
NOTES: Hagman has a goal in three consecutive games. … Tampa Bay recalled D Mike Lundin from Norfolk of the AHL. … Toronto C Wayne Primeau picked up his first assist in 30 games – dating to Nov. 1, 2008 – on Kulemin’s goal. … Lightning D Mattias Ohlund (ankle) missed his fifth straight game, but could be back in the lineup soon. … Toronto has held the lead four times at the end of the second period this season. … Lightning C Steven Stamkos had two assists.